Luis Suarez Lionel Messi
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during the height of their careers with FC Barcelona. PAU BARRENA/AFP News

Former FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid forward Luis Suarez has admitted that he had actually come very close to joining rival club Real Madrid before he ended up making history with the two Spanish sides.

The Uruguay international caught the eye of Real Madrid executives while he was playing for Liverpool in the Premier League from 2011 to 2014. At that time, he was just starting to make a name for himself in European football.

As a teenager, he moved from Uruguay to the Netherlands, where he had a short stint with Eredivisie side Groningen. After an impressive performance there, he was picked up by Dutch giants Ajax, before eventually finding his way to Liverpool.

Suarez blossomed as a striker with Liverpool, and soon caught the attention of Europe's biggest clubs, including Real Madrid. By the summer of 2014, he was extremely in demand, and he told Uruguayan programme La Mesa that Real Madrid had been in touch with his agents and that they were ready to sign him. Karim Benzema, who later became a Real Madrid legend, was apparently being sold to Arsenal to make way for his arrival.

He said: "My agent spoke with Real Madrid, and everything was on the right track. They were thinking about selling Benzema to Arsenal, everything was already done."

The deal was in place but nothing had been signed yet. The 2014 FIFA World Cup was taking place in Brazil, and the entire football world focused its attention on the big event. Indeed, Real Madrid is known for signing the best performers from World Cups, including the likes of Fabio Cannavaro (2006 winner with Italy) and James Rodriguez (2014 top scorer). That year, Germany won the event, which also resulted in the signing of midfield legend Toni Kroos.

Back to Suarez, he played a key role in Uruguay's World Cup campaign, but his participation ended in a massive controversy after he bit the shoulder of Italian player Giorgio Chiellini during their Group D match.

In light of the scandal, Suarez said that Real Madrid's interest waned and the history of European football changed forever. He said: "With the situation of the bite, Madrid lost interest, and Barcelonabecame more interested. In the end I had both options and I chose the Barcelona because it was my dream."

It was indeed an interesting turn of events, especially considering the faith that Barcelona put in Suarez despite the biting issue and his subsequent suspension. After the Chiellini incident, Suarez was unable to participate in the World Cup any further, and Uruguay was eliminated by Colombia in the round-of-16.

Suarez was also banned from all "football-related activities", including training for Barcelona, for four months (until 26 October). He was also banned from entering any stadium, even as a spectator, during the same period. That did not deter the Blaugrana, and the move worked out for all sides in the end.

Real Madrid kept Benzema, and made a legend out of him in the years that followed. Suarez, meanwhile, also cemented his name in football history as part of the Messi-Suarez-Neymar trident that led FC Barcelona to numerous trophies.

That period would mark one of the most successful chapters in Barcelona history, and for Suarez's personal career as well. He was later sold to Atletico Madrid in 2020, a move that caused a rift between his good friend Messi and the club. The latter eventually left Barcelona in the summer of 2021 to join PSG amid other unrelated issues.

As fate would have it, Suarez and Messi have reunited at Major League Soccer side Inter Miami. They are preparing to embark in their first full season together on the other side of the globe, back to the Americas where they are both originally from.

Suarez and Messi are also in the company of former Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, in a team ironically co-owned by former Real Madrid player David Beckham.

Speaking about his plans for the future, Suarez admitted that he is thinking about calling time on his career soon. "Inter Miami will be my last club, my family already knows that. I still don't have a date, but it is the last step.

"I am prepared for this last challenge, but there is inevitable wear and tear and in the end I want to have quality of life."